KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s been one year since Rick Hahn uttered those three magic words to signal that the White Sox would soon begin a massive rebuild: mired in mediocrity.
Disappointed by another season of middling play despite a roster led with top talent but short on depth, the general manager suggested the White Sox needed a new direction last July 21.
At the time, Hahn only noted that the White Sox were no longer interested in acquiring short-term pieces and they would re-evaluate their future. Ten days later, the front office began a thorough overhaul that has since seen the completion of four franchise-altering deals for young, controllable, top-flight talent by trading reliever Zach Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charlie Tilson. The White Sox sped their rebuild up incrementally in December and have since traded away Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, Tommy Kahnle, Todd Frazier and David Robertson. The series of moves has made it easily apparent where the White Sox are headed.
“It just make it official that it’s a rebuild,” infielder Tyler Saladino said. “You know you’re not in between or what are we going to do? It establishes what’s going on here for everybody.”
The White Sox received a boatload of criticism when the nonwaiver trade deadline passed last Aug. 1 and only Duke had been traded.
One report indicated that the White Sox asked for a “king’s ransom” for Sale, who remained with the club even after his second volatile outburst of the season produced boxes full of slashed throwback jerseys and a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property. A grade-based ESPN article assigned Hahn an ‘F’ for the failure to begin the rebuild before the deadline. Two weeks later, a reported schism in the front office between Hahn and Kenny Williams over the club’s direction prompted chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to call CSN’s David Kaplan to inform him that his decision makers were “in lockstep” and the team’s decision would be easy to detect soon enough.
And just like that it was.
The White Sox switched managers in October, hiring development-oriented Rick Renteria only a day after Robin Ventura walked away. A month later, Hahn spelled it out again at the GM meetings that the White Sox intended to get younger.
And then the exodus began. First went Sale. Then Eaton. There was a brief interlude as the club signed Cuban free agent Luis Robert for $52 million in May. But the exits have since continued with the trades of Quintana, Frazier, Kahnle and Robertson.
“The fact that they've been able to do as much as they have in this short period of time is kind of impressive,” Renteria said. “We're sad to see a lot of the guys (go) that were here with us because they were good White Sox. But everybody knows the direction we're going in and we still go out there and play to try to get a ballgame every single day, so that's part of the process.”
First baseman Jose Abreu said he understands the process and has bought into what Hahn and Co. are selling. Abreu looks at the organization as a whole and believes the White Sox, who now possess 10 of the top 68 prospects in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com, are in better shape than they were a year ago. So even if the team is headed for an ugly final two months, Abreu believes it’ll be worth it.
“We all know that in this process you are going to rough moments and you’re going to feel sometimes like things aren’t going the way they are supposed to go, especially with the trades,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “But if you see now we are a much better organization, especially with all of the young talent we are getting. That’s part of the process too. You are pointing up to the future. All of those positions are for the future, and we are looking for good things to come.”